Gina Razidlo is a cancer biologist by training, and is interested in the mechanisms underlying tumor cell migration and invasion. She earned her PhD at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE, and is now in the laboratory of Mark McNiven at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
The average age for an academic researcher to receive his or her first NIH R grant is 42.
Like many of you, I am concerned about this for a few reasons. First, it reflects an ever-increasing “training” period, with investigators not truly achieving independence until they have their own dedicated source of funding. Second, it suggests that as scientists we are not getting the benefits of a “real” job until our early 40s, including getting established in a stable location, retirement benefits, and the like.
The ASCB and COMPASS are calling for applications from enthusiastic students and postdocs to be associate members of COMPASS, the ASCB Committee for Postdocs and Students. COMPASS members represent the voices and perspectives of students and postdocs in the ASCB, and interact with the ASCB leadership to develop initiatives that reflect our interests. The specific initiatives and projects are driven largely by COMPASS members’ ideas. What does COMPASS do, exactly? We’re glad you asked!
When I was a kid, I didn't know that I would be a scientist. But I did know I would be a parent. Having children was a high priority in my life. However, during graduate school, I started to see the professional demands placed on graduate students, postdocs, and junior faculty. When, then, would be the best time to start a family? There is not one right answer, as it depends on each individual's personal and professional situation. And you will probably never think you have enough time or enough money to start a family. I had my first son at the end of graduate school, and my second son four years later, shortly after starting a second postdoc. So, how is it going? Can I be a great parent AND be a successful postdoc? Can I have it all? The answer is Yes! And...No. And, both Yes and No, sometimes even at the same time. Let me explain:
"What are you going to do when you're finished?"
"Have you started looking for postdocs?"
"When you choose where to do a postdoc, you should consider..."
"Where will you do your postdoc?"
Jim started his postdoc 15 years ago and never left. He loves working at the bench, publishes regularly, and has a great relationship with his principal investigator (PI). But Jim hates writing grants, and didn't want to leave behind his technical expertise. A few years ago, Jim's PI secured him a promotion as a research associate so he can continue the work that he loves. Plus, Jim's PI can keep him as a valuable member of the research team. Jim's family also benefits from the arrangement, as he lives close to his aging parents, who can continue to spend time with their grandkids.
I learned a lot in graduate school. I learned about receptor tyrosine kinases, and oncogenic transformation, and how to do a western blot. But more importantly, I learned about myself, and I acquired many skills that help me to be not only a better scientist, but to be more engaged and successful in life. Here I have compiled several COMPASS members' ideas on some of the most valuable lessons they learned in graduate school – and many extend far beyond the laboratory.